Friday, December 13, 2013

More on Things That Matter

Fly at once.  All is discovered. 

Edmund Gorey (1925-2005),  The Admonitory Hippopotamus

I often think it's comical
How nature always does contrive,
That every boy and every gal,
That's born into the world alive,
Is either a little Liberal,
Or else a little Conservative!

Sir William Gilbert (1836-1911), Iolanthe, 1882

In my last post, I briefly described contents of Charles Krauthammer's book  Things That Matter.  The book contains 87 Krauthammer pieces, written for The New Republic,  Time, and the Washington Post.  Most are Washington Post weekly columns, composed since 1984.

I cannot reduce what Krauthammer said in one post.   The issues he addresses are too profound, too philosophical, too wide ranging.

But to me what he is saying is this:  We are now witnessing collapse of the liberal theory of government.

Simply put,  government, no matter how well-intentioned,  cannot control and command  habits, leanings, behaviors, passions, choices, and freedoms of every  individual citizen.  The resulting consequences, contradictions, tensions, emotions, and dilemmas are too great, too complicated,  to handle top-down in a bottom-up society like America.

The whole matter comes down to politics. Who shall run human affairs, centralized government or decentralized markets, composed of individuals? Shall we have a liberal society, run by progressives, who think they know what is best, or shall it be conducted by individuals, or their organizations, who acting in their best interests,  believe they can bring out the best in society?

Here are three of Krauthammer's essays in his book. They  summarize his point of view on liberal-conservative issues.

One,  "The Central Axiom of Partisan Politics."

Krauthhammer begins" To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law. Conservatives think liberals are stupid.  Liberals think conservatives are evil."

Liberals think human nature is good.  Therefore, social reform can solve all problems.  Liberals regard conservatives as wrong, mean, and angry.  In the liberal mind, conservative values - self-reliance,  self-discipline, competition, and military power - are soulless. These values, you see,  are based on the notion that other people are bad.  Consequently, conservatives are never pleasant or dignified or thoughtful.  They are hard-nosed, hard-hearted, and even  heartless.

Two, "The Myth of The Angry White Male."

Krauthammer leads off this piece with this sentence,  " The Angry White Male, suitably capitalized to indicate the menace has become a media-satisfied trend, stalks the land, at least the land of the media."

Republicans are largely agitated white males  who are angry, distrustful of women, dismissive of minorities, and fearful of strong women.

Krauthammer says there are no facts, no surveys, no studies to bear this out.  "In fact, asserts Krauthammer, "The Angry White Male is a myth." The myth? "A rabble of dispossessed white men, threatened by women and resentful of minorities, enthralled by talk radio, has been stirred."  It is a myth that  makes electoral defeats more tolerable, "because you become convinced you lost to a lynch mob."

Three, "The State Makes You Great?"

Krauthammer starts by quoting Obama, "If you've got a business- you didn't built that. Somebody else did that."

Who? The government, of course. It built the roads.  It educated your teachers.  It created the Internet.  It it the origin of every individual and national achievement.  It is the font of all entrepreneurial success.

Krauthammer sums up this line of thinking in one word:  absurd.  What makes American society vital is not government.  It is energy, enterprise, risk-taking,  hard work, and genius - none of which has much to do with government.  Yes, government should provide a safety net for those who cannot fend for themselves, who are too old, too sick, or too weak. But it cannot provide a safety-net for all citizens.  They must do that for themselves.

He concludes, "Limited government has two indispensable advantages.  It avoids European -style  national insolvency.  And it avoids breeding individual dependency.   It encourages and celebrates character, independence, energy, hard work as the foundation of a free society and a thriving economy - precisely the virtues Obama discounts and devalues in his accounting of the wealth of nations."

TweetCharles Krauthammer discounts and dismisses as flawed  the values of liberals,  the myth of The Angry White Male, and the idea that the State is what makes America great.

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